Author: Bike Social Sports Reporter Posted: 16 Oct 2014
The British Superbike Showdown Finale gets underway this weekend at Brands Hatch and it’s set to be a corker! The two most successful British Superbike stars ever, Shane Byrne & Ryuichi Kiyonari are going head to head for a record fourth series title. We thought we’d take a look back at the careers of each candidate for the crown…
Born in Lambeth on 12 October 1976, Shane Byrne is currently the most successful British Superbike rider ever having taken an impressive 59 career victories. He’s also one of just three riders who have three BSB titles to their name, along with Ryuichi Kiyonari and Niall MacKenzie.
Initially, Byrne was a road tester for Fast Bikes magazine, later joining the British Superbike championship in 1999 aboard a private Kawasaki. His first racing success came in 2001 aboard the Performance House Suzuki, where he took five top five finishes and won the Privateers Cup.
He joined the Renegade Ducati squad for 2002, taking his first British Superbike win and replaced reigning champion Steve Hislop in the Paul Bird-run Monstermob outfit the year following. Taking 12 race wins, he stormed to his first ever British Superbike title. It wasn’t just British success for Byrne in 2003, wildcarding in the World Championships at his local Brands Hatch, the Ducati man turned heads as he took the double victory ahead of riders such as Neil Hodgson, Ruben Xaus, James Toseland and Pierfrancesco Chili.
In 2004 he moved to MotoGP, riding for Aprilia alongside Jeremy McWilliams but missed several races through injury. The next year he raced for Kenny Roberts aboard KTM machinery until the Austrian manufacturer pulled the plug on the project mid-way through the season. After this, the Kent man raced two rounds for Camel Honda in place of the injured Troy Bayliss but was unable to impress the Japanese marque enough to secure any future rides.
Having failed to impress on the international scene, Byrne returned to Britain in 2006 with Paul Denning’s Crescent Suzuki squad. He took just one win in his returning season and finished sixth in the championship standings.
It was back to former Monstermob boss Paul Bird for 2007, who was now running the Stobart Honda outfit. Once again he took a solitary victory but finished on the podium nine times, enough to secure a ride with championship contending team GSE Ducati for the following year.
Racing the all-new Ducati 1098 for the Colin Wright-managed team, Byrne took ten victories on his way to the 2008 British Superbike title, despite weight penalties being placed on his 1100cc V-twin mid-season.
Byrne’s second British championship earned him a ride on the World stage with the Italian Sterilgarda Ducati outfit, which had impressed in 2008 with Max Biaggi and Rubens Xaus. However, the team faced severe financial difficulties and dropped to a one rider team for 2009, leaving Byrne’s 1098 somewhat underdeveloped. The Brit managed to show his worth in Misano by taking a strong second placed finish, securing himself a ride with the Althea team in 2010 alongside Carlos Checa.
Having been outpaced by his team mate for the majority of 2010, Byrne found himself returning to Britain in 2011 with the Lincolnshire-based HM Plant Honda squad. Byrne enjoyed a strong, consistent season but was beaten to the title after suffering a poorer start to the showdown than his competitors. He finished third in the championship behind Tommy Hill and John Hopkins when under a conventional points system, he’d have won.
Reuniting with Paul Bird for 2012, Byrne got his revenge as he beat Josh Brookes to take his third British Superbike title despite missing four races through an injury suffered in practice at Cadwell Park. Remaining with Bird the following year, he missed out on the title by a matter of points to Alex Lowes in one of the closest final rounds to date.
Will Byrne win the title?